Maybe you’re planning on an epidural for your labor and you’re wondering if you should still take a childbirth class. The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Keep reading!
Perhaps most importantly, you need to know how to cope with labor before you go to the hospital and then at the hospital itself if the anesthesiologist is tied up elsewhere and you must wait before receiving an epidural. Many women experience very long early labors which can be a painful process. Keep in mind that many hospitals will not admit you to labor and delivery until you are 4 centimeters dilated, regardless of your pain level. Imagine how you might feel if you are in enough pain to want an epidural at 2 centimeters (and it happens quite often!) and the hospital will not admit you. If you take a birth class, you will then have a variety of comfort measures to fall back on and will be able to help yourself, even if that isn’t plan A.
Secondly, you need to know what kind of epidurals are available to you. For example, did you know that you can request a walking epidural if you’d like to take advantage of the pain ousting relief they provide without being confined to bed? Check out this article to learn more about the different types of epidurals available to you!
Along the same notes, you need to be equipped to cope if the epidural doesn’t work well. While ACOG agrees that epidurals offer the most effective pain relief while allowing a woman to be alert and participate in her labor, about 5-10% of epidurals don’t work well. Sometimes they fail to provide any pain relief at all, sometimes they can “wear off” and other times you can feel “breakthrough” pain. It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan (or two) when it comes to birth.
Finally, while epidurals are a relatively safe procedure with minimal side effects, they are a medical procedure and do come with potential risks and side effects. Taking a birth class to learn about those possible side effects and how to minimize them if they do arise is immensely helpful. Additionally, you’ll learn about positions and techniques to use with an epidural - you don’t have to just lay there on your back!
There are lots of reasons to take a childbirth class, even if you plan to get an epidural at some point during labor. Birth is unpredictable and the best laid plans can go awry. Having a plan B in place, knowing the types of epidurals available and how to handle possible side effects are all an important part of being prepared for your birth.